Apple’s continued push to give the creative industry more powerful options has resulted in it launching a new category of Mac for the first time since 2005.
Ostensibly sitting between the Mac mini and Mac Pro, the Mac Studio is the company’s answer to those who want more power (complete with Apple’s own M1 Max/Ultra silicon) without spending all the money on the fully customizable (and still Intel-powered) Mac Pro.
So how does it stack up? We’ve been living with Mac Studio to find out.
For most people, Mac Studio will be overkill. It’s the most powerful Mac we’ve ever tested. However, if you’re dealing with large files, and we mean really large files, day in and day out, then this will meet those needs…and more.
The Mac Studio is a replacement for the now-discontinued iMac Pro or standard iMac 27-inch, but with the added benefit of being able to customize your display options and add a Studio display if you’re feeling particularly flush.
It’s also worth noting that Apple has yet to release a Mac Pro with Apple Silicon inside. That’s a device Apple was keen to point out at its March 2022 ‘ Peek Performance’ event that was yet to come (we’re expecting an announcement from June’s WWDC) and since it should be even more powerful, we know, right? How? – You might want to wait to see what it offers, especially if you’re at the higher end of Mac Studio’s offerings and looking for, well, superpowers.
Mac Studio sets a new standard for performance. It will be difficult for anyone to beat.
Apple Mac Studio review: Unleash your superpowers
- Incredibly powerful
- lots of ports
- SDXC card slot on the front for easy access
- Many upgrade options
- Can’t upgrade once purchased
- Only available on M1 Max or Ultra options
- enormously expensive
- Rear Ports: 4x USB-C 4/Thunderbolt 4, 1x 10Gb Ethernet, 2x USB-A, 1x HDMI, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
- Front ports: 2x USB-A (M1 Max model) / 2x Thunderbolt 4 (M1 Ultra)
- Dimensions: 95mm high x 197mm square
- Weight: 2.7kg (M1 max) / 3.6kg (M1 Ultra)
The easiest way to describe what Mac Studio looks like is like a ruggedized Mac mini. Using the same design language, the square-shaped case, which is made from 80 per cent recycled aluminium, will sit firmly on your desk and is about the same height as two Mac minis stacked on top of each other. It features the same rounded edges and the usual polished Apple logo on top.
However, that’s where the similarities end. Understanding the constant need to connect devices, there are two USB-C ports on the front (faster Thunderbolt 4 if you opt for the M1 Ultra model), along with an SDXC card slot so you don’t have to dig around the back. . when you are importing videos and images from your camera.
On the back of the device, you’ll find even more ports. Apple has banished any memory of a “portless future” here. There are so many ports in Mac Studio that some might argue that it’s more like a cheese grater than a high-end desktop. Still, those four Thunderbolt 4 ports back here will come in handy, especially if you want multiple monitors.
It’s also worth noting that, like the Mac mini, Mac Studio is just one part of the solution for a better Mac workflow. In the box, you’ll get the Mac Studio and power cord, and nothing else. To get started, you’ll need a monitor, keyboard, plus a mouse or trackpad.
- Two basic options:
- 1. Apple M1 Max (10 core CPU, 24 core GPU)
- Configurable to 10 core CPU with 32 core GPU
- 2. Apple M1 Ultra (20 core CPU, 48 core GPU)
- Configurable to 20 core CPU with 64 core GPU
- 1. Apple M1 Max (10 core CPU, 24 core GPU)
- Unified Memory:
- M1 max: 32 GB (configurable to 64 GB)
- M1 Ultra: 64GB (configurable to 128GB)
- SSD: 512GB or 1/2/4/8TB options
While the design is one of the niceties of Mac Studio, potential owners are likely to be interested in the power it offers. Oh, it certainly does that.
There are two basic configurations available: the entry-level features Apple’s M1 Max processor with a 10-core CPU, 24-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine; you also get 32GB of unified memory and 512GB of SSD storage.
The other comes with the Apple M1 Ultra processor with a 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine; there’s also 64GB of unified memory and 1TB of SSD storage.
Both models can be further upgraded. Check all the boxes, and you get an Apple M1 Ultra with a 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine. You can also upgrade to 128GB of unified memory (leave it at that for a bit) and 8TB of SSD storage.
All that power is now available thanks to a new Apple processor: the M1 Ultra which sits at the top of the M1 processor stack.
Using a new technology Apple calls UltraFusion, which, by the way, is not to be confused with a character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the company has found a way to join two M1 Max processors together without the system thinking they’re two separate chips.
Our test unit included the top-end M1 Ultra with a high-end processor and memory upgrades, plus a 2TB drive. The stats soon become mind-boggling (as does the price): the standard price of £3,999/$3,999/€4,599 is increased by an additional £1,000/$1,000/€1,150 for the processor upgrade, £800/$800/€ An additional 920 for the memory, and £400/$400/€460. The total of our machine? A cool £/$6,199 or €7,129.
It’s a lot, a lot, a lot of money. It also can’t be upgraded after the fact, so once you’ve locked in that order, that’s it, you can’t add any more memory or anything else internally.
But put in real-world terms, the ease with which Studio can handle high-resolution, high-bitrate files is simply amazing. Flipping through 8K preview files in Final Cut Pro, or a timeline with multiple 8K video streams stacked on top of each other, you’d expect there to be a lot of dropping, stuttering, and choking frames. But no, the M1 Ultra with all that memory handles it smoothly, as if you just asked it to do a simple task.
Then when you want to export such a file, it takes relatively little time. A 34-second 8K video was exported as a 16GB file in just 24 seconds. In contrast, the same file on the still very powerful 14-inch MacBook Pro (with an M1 Pro processor with 32GB of unified memory) took 24 minutes for the same task. To say that Studio is powerful is an understatement.
But it’s not just Final Cut Pro. Mac Studio is unfazed by almost everything. Live previews of major changes within a RAW file in Adobe Photoshop instantly appear as if it were a simple JPEG. Logic Pro files with hundreds of audio tracks are also no problem. We couldn’t find anything that Mac Studio had a problem with.
All that power demands, no wait, a decent screen to display all of your work. So along with Mac Studio, Apple also released Studio Display.
A step down from the company’s Pro Display XDR offering, this new 27-inch Retina 5K display, which comes with height- and tilt-adjustable stand options, offers True Tone, 600 nits of brightness, and a P3 wide colour gamut. . There’s the option of a nano-texture glass coating to further reduce screen glare (which, yes, costs even more money).
Following in the footsteps of the company’s original Thunderbolt Cinema displays, the Studio Display also comes with a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, a three-microphone array, and six speakers with support for Apple’s Spatial Audio. Aside from when you’re editing videos or photos, those specs make it a perfect monitor for Zoom.
Connecting via Thunderbolt 4, Mac Studio can run four studio displays plus an additional 4K TV; none of this “just two screens” crap like the Mac mini. We joke. In addition to the ports on the Mac Studio, the Studio Display adds its own three USB-C ports and a Thunderbolt 3 port.
The two questions you’ll need to ask yourself, though, are whether your desk is big enough to hold that many screens and whether you have a swivel chair. Because that’s a lot of extra screens to look at.